To Be Happier, Stop Pursuing Happiness


Pursuing happiness seems like a worthwhile goal, that is, until you consider the way it affects our perceptions of time.

Achieving a state of happiness takes time and effort that we may not have, and the pursuit may also make us feel even more pressured, and paradoxically, less happy.

Conducting four studies, Aekyoung Kim of Rutgers University in the US and Sam Maglio of the University of Toronto Scarborough in Canada investigated how the pursuit of happiness as well as the state of being happy influenced people’s perception of time.

In the studies, some participants were either instructed to list things that would make them happier or asked to try to make themselves feel happy while watching a dull movie about building bridges. Other participants were instructed to think of happiness as a goal that they had already accomplished and list things that made them happy. Afterwards, all participants reported how much free time they felt they had.

When happiness was viewed not as a goal to be pursued, but as a state to be appreciated and savored – as having been already achieved – the feeling that time is scarce was lessened (Kim & Maglio, 2018).

As Kim explains, “Time seems to vanish amid the pursuit of happiness, but only when seen as a goal requiring continued pursuit” (Kim, 2018).

“This finding adds depth to the growing body of work suggesting that the pursuit of happiness can ironically undermine well-being” (Kim, 2018).

When we believe we have achieved happiness, notes Kim, we are left with the time to appreciate it, by doings things like keeping a gratitude journal, savoring experiences, helping others and volunteering.

On the other hand, when we don’t feel like we have enough time, we may choose purchasing material items over engaging in and appreciating experiences, as this requires less time. The irony is that material items do not lead to lasting increasing in happiness.

Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Course:

Finding Happiness: Positive Interventions in TherapyFinding Happiness: Positive Interventions in Therapy is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE) course that explores the concept of happiness, from common myths to the overriding factors that directly increase our feelings of contentment.

We will start with a discussion on why you, the clinician, need to know about happiness and how this information can help in your work with clients. We will then uncover mistakes we make when trying to attain happiness and look carefully at the actions we take and the beliefs that do not just obfuscate our happiness efforts, but often leave us less happy. Next, we will explore the ways in which our mindset influences our feelings of happiness and the many ways we can fundamentally change our levels of well-being, not just immediately, but for many years to come. The final section of this course contains exercises you can use with clients to cultivate and sustain a lifelong habit of happiness. Course #40-45 | 2018 | 57 pages | 25 posttest questions

Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Georgia State Board of Occupational Therapy; the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors (#MHC-0135); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).

Earn CE Wherever YOU Love to Be!